Media Portrayals of Persons with Disabilities: Introduction

Persons with disabilities might best be described, in the media at least, as an invisible minority: though a large segment of the population has a physical or mental disability they have been almost entirely absent from the mass media until recent years. Moreover, when persons with disabilities appear they almost always do so in stereotyped roles.

Scott Bremner, in the article “Changing Channels: Improving Media Portrayals of Disability” (Abilities, Spring 2008) writes that “Although 4.4 million Canadians – one in seven people – has a disability, we’re conspicuously absent from popular media. When we do appear, it’s often in roles that are stereotypical or degrading.”

A 2005 report by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), “The Presence, Portrayal and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Television Programming,” found that “the clear, predominant concern raised throughout the course of the research was negative social attitudes, misperceptions and misinformation concerning persons with disabilities and life with a disability.”